Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sunday Reading

The Iran Deal — Matt Ford in The Atlantic on the diplomacy that ended Iran’s sanctions and freed Americans held captive.

The United States and the European Union lifted a broad swath of economic sanctions against Iran on Saturday as the International Atomic Energy Agency certified it had dismantled most of its nuclear program, opening a new, cautious chapter in relations between Tehran and the West.

“Today marks the first day of a safer world, one we hope will remain safer for many years to come,” Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters at a press conference in Vienna.

Diplomats gathered Saturday in the Austrian capital for the implementation of last year’s historic nuclear agreement between Iran and six world powers—the United States, Russia, China, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. IAEA inspectors formally certified that Iran had taken concrete steps to scale back its nuclear infrastructure over the past three months—literally, in one case, when the country poured cement into the nuclear reactor core at Arak.

Iran also shipped 98 percent of its nuclear fuel to Russia and dismantled two-thirds of the centrifuges it used to enrich uranium. If the Iranian government renounced the deal and reactivated its program, Kerry estimated that it would take more than a year for the country to race towards a nuclear bomb.


Hours before the announcement in Vienna, Iranian news outlets reported that Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian had been released from Iranian custody on Saturday morning after 543 days in captivity, along with three other American prisoners as part of a prisoner swap with the United States, Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported.

Also freed on Saturday were Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine sentenced to death for espionage in 2012; Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor held by Iran since 2012; and Nosratollah Khosrawi.

As part of the swap, President Obama granted clemency to seven Iranians convicted of or awaiting trial for violating the U.S. sanctions regime against Iran. The U.S. also dropped its cases against 14 other Iranians it sought to extradite from other countries.

Iran also released a fifth American, Matthew Trevithick, on Saturday; CNN reported that U.S. officials claimed his release was not part of the prisoner swap. Trevithick is a student and researcher specializing in the Middle East who was detained while studying at a foreign-language center in Tehran, according to a statement from his family. His 40-day captivity was not publicly known prior to Saturday’s announcement.

Iranian officials arrested Rezaian on July 22, 2014 and charged him with espionage nine months later. An Iranian court found him guilty on October 15 last year and sentenced him to prison for an indeterminate length of time. Marty Baron, the Post’s executive editor, strongly condemned his sentence and treatment.

“The contemptible end to this ‘judicial process’ leaves Iran’s senior leaders with an obligation to right this grievous wrong,” Baron wrote. “Jason is a victim — arrested without cause, held for months in isolation, without access to a lawyer, subjected to physical mistreatment and psychological abuse, and now convicted without basis.”

His Own Worst Enemy — Jeb Lund in The Guardian on Ted Cruz’s birther troubles.

… Interestingly enough (as MSNBC’s Chris Hayes noted on Friday) it seems as if, in retrospect, the birther movement was following a goofy script designed to set someone like Ted Cruz up for failure in a quest for the presidency. In addition to Cruz actually being born outside of the United States – in the Canadian city of Calgary – all those imagined (and some perhaps less so) constitutional eligibility standards about a parent who was not a citizen or another parent who might have in some way renounced or suspended her citizenship actually describe Cruz’s family history far more than they ever did the Hawaiian-born Obama’s.

And most of Congress already hates Ted Cruz for his grandstanding, camera-hogging, obstreperous non-collegial ways, which is why so many Republican Party members seem to be having fun with his predicament.

Rand Paul suggested that Ted Cruz was absolutely qualified to become Prime Minister of Canada. Mike Huckabee is compelled and convinced! Arizona Senator John McCain, who had to fend off his own birther questions by pointing out that he was born on a US military base in Panama, has despised Cruz since the man’s early days in the Senate, when Cruz implied that McCain buddy Chuck Hagel might have accepted money from North Korea. McCain was probably rolling the words around his mouth like they were stolen sweets when he told a radio host that he “didn’t know the answer” as to whether Cruz was eligible to be president.

Meanwhile, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who probably wishes Ted Cruz would go try to make toaster strudel in a full bathtub, initially refused to comment definitively on his eligibility, stating, “I’ll let all these folks argue about this stuff, and I’m going to stay out of it.”

Now, there’s a school of thought that people shouldn’t be enjoying this newest strain of birtherism; that, after deploring the conduct of conservatives asserting Obama’s illegitimacy, teasing and tweaking the Cruz birther phenomenon only retroactively legitimizes what was clearly a broadly racist movement to undo the Obama presidency without having to count actual votes.

But that generous impulse conflates two distinct issues. Obama birtherism was the result of a lot of people who refused to recognize a lawfully elected public official because of what he looked like or the theory of government he espoused. It was a malignant extension of a frame of thought that says certain people are not allowed power over “Americans”.

Cruz birtherism is just trolling an unbearable prick.

It’s doubtful that any non-crazy people truly believe that Ted Cruz is disqualified to become president. Even the person pushing that narrative now the most (and who once himself rode the tide of Obama birther sentiment), Donald Trump, likely doesn’t believe a word of it. Trump, after all, is an opportunist who will believe whatever closes the deal.

Cruz birtherism is a fake issue that couldn’t find a better target: a Princeton and Harvard educated white-shoe litigator married to a Goldman Sachs executive who likes to fire weapons covered in bacon and LARP as a good ol’ boy with that Duck Dynasty yahoo, who clerked for the US supreme court but acts as if the NRA’s faux-academic flunkies are the last word on Second Amendment jurisprudence, who paraphrases Molon Labe in fundraising emails and pretends that the president will confiscate all our guns and who studied American history and yet claims with a straight face that Barack Obama is the most left-wing president in history.

The Ted Cruz birther conspiracy is a fatuous gimmick, but, come on, so is the candidate. It’s nice when these people find each other.

Fact-Checker Burn-Out — Andy Borowitz in The New Yorker.

CHARLESTON (The Borowitz Report)—A fact checker who has vetted all of the 2016 Republican Presidential debates was hospitalized for exhaustion during the sixth G.O.P. forum in Charleston on Thursday evening.

Martin Slessky, a former journalist who works for HonestyWatch, a Minnesota-based fact-checking organization, was resting comfortably after suffering what his doctors called a “total physical and mental collapse” during Thursday’s debate.

Harland Dorrinson, the executive director of HonestyWatch, said he first became concerned about Slessky’s health when the fact checker started having heart palpitations and shortness of breath every time Texas senator Ted Cruz spoke.

“I turned to Martin and said, ‘Are you all right? Are you going to be able to make it through this?’ ” Dorrinson said. “And he said, ‘I’ll be fine. Ben Carson is starting to talk now, that’ll be soothing.’ ”

But moments later, when New Jersey governor Chris Christie falsely claimed that he never supported the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Slessky experienced acute dizziness and blurry vision, and was immediately rushed to the hospital.

HonestyWatch’s Dorrinson said it was unlikely that he would ask Slessky or any of his other fact checkers to work future Republican debates. “I care about these people,” he said. “Many of them have families.”

Speaking from his hospital bed on Friday, Slessky still seemed blindsided by his sudden disintegration. “Going into the debate, I actually believed that the volume of falsehoods was going to be more manageable this time,” he said. “I thought Carly Fiorina not being there would help.”

Doonesbury — Correcting the record.

One bark on “Sunday Reading

  1. Nearly choked reading the Borowitz piece. He’s always funny but this time he beat his record. The Fiorina bit is the cherry on top.

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